CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE’S NEW JAWN (Mack Avenue, 2018)
PERSONNEL: Christian McBride (bass), Josh Evans (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Nasheet Waits (drums)
1. Walkin’ Funny
2. Ke-Kelli Sketch
3. Ballad of Ernie Washington
4. The Middle Man
5. Pier One Import
7. Seek the Source
8. John Day
For the benefit of the tragically unhip (like Yours Truly), a “Jawn” is Philly-ese for pretty much anything and everything. As in, “I just saw the new Avengers movie, and that Jawn was hot!”
Philadelphia’s own Christian McBride is recognized as one the the best bassists in jazz. Christian McBride’s New Jawn provides a definitive case if point, with a smoking hot quartet elevating post-bop to the next level while clearly paying respect to the jazz that came before them.
McBride, like any wise bandleader, has surrounded himself with top-flight talent, particularly in the form of trumpeter Josh Evans, who carries the lion’s share of the song’s leads while McBride is content to groove away hard in the background. That’s not to say the bassist fades out of his own project. Quite the contrary: McBride’s playing is groovy, intense, and right on point at all times.
“Walkin’ Funny” sets the tone right away, establishing a groove that would fit in nicely with people still using phrases like “hep cat.” The call and response between Evans and sax player Marcus Strickland represents the very definition of “interplay.”
McBride shows off his bowing abilities for the first time on the record during “Ke-Kelli Sketch,” owning a technique that puts him on the same level with another somewhat well-known bassist from Philadelphia. You know … some guy named Stanley Clarke. The bow gives way to a meaty, bouncy bass line augmented with single note stabs from Evans that are less melodic, but highly effective.
“The Ballad of Ernie Washington” is deep an mournful, reminding one of the classic “Round Midnight,” while “The Middle Man” is pure, well executed post-bop at its finest. McBride’s bass is at its most tasteful during “Kush,” which sounds pretty much like the effect of the song title.
McBride saves his hottest solo for last on “Sightseeing,” where he pulls out all the stops and unleashes on the audience no doubt waiting for this very moment. The leader leaves us wanting more, which is just what any good entertainer should do. This album is remarkably well done.
Wait. That’s wrong. What should have been said was, “This Jawn is hot!”